Letters to the Editor February 23
The analysis by Drew Bailey, Greg Duncan and Candice Odgers struggled to thoroughly frame the issue. The writers noted that basic math and reading skills, while easy to test, are not the only measures of current knowledge or future success. Accordingly, we maintain that the long-term effects mentioned in the article, high school graduation, higher earnings, fewer arrests and healthier lifestyles, are related to one skill: executive function.
Executive function helps children persevere through adversity, turn basic skills into advanced comprehension and develop into self-regulating, successful citizens. These skills, which children learn in high-quality preschools, have a significant positive effect on life outcomes.
Further, not all gains fade. The Head Start Impact Study found effects did not fade among groups of children most at risk. In a 2010 research paper, Rucker C. Johnson found that fadeout happens when children move into low-performing K-12 schools, but not when they proceed to high-performing schools. Head Start also focuses on children and their families, addressing those “persistent environmental factors” often found in the home.
Fadeout is a myth based on a narrow methodology and scope. The effects of high-quality early learning, especially those with comprehensive, two-generation supports, last a lifetime.